Deli Day: Annual event raises money for charity

The four-day production line starts Sunday.

That’s when paper sandwich bags get filled with condiment packs and chips.

“Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the children from the Religious School help us,” Temple Israel member Jean Kent said.

If pollen’s in the air, it’s a sure sign Deli Day is not far behind.

The annual spring event, which brings together many sectors of the community, is Thursday at Temple Israel. Part picnic, part social gathering, the Temple’s Jewish Ladies Aid Society sponsors it. If the weather’s agreeable, many will bring their own lawn chairs and blankets, to supplement seating around the outdoor tables.

For four days, it’s all hands on deck for anyone who’s able. On Monday, corned beef gets cut and weighed into quarter-pound sizes for each sandwich. (Local retired surgeon Frank Star takes charge of the carving.) Tuesday is cole slaw day. Wednesday is dessert day, when the homemade cheesecakes and other goodies start arriving. Eight refrigerators will hold them all. Wednesday night is “Pickle Pickin’ Night,” when the pickles get washed and put into individual packets.

Thursday -- D-day, if you will -- begins at 5 a.m. The rye bread arrives around that time, and activity becomes fevered until in mid-afternoon.

“I’ve been lining up all the desserts and I’ve handled all the ticket sales,” said Kent, co-chair with Babette Rothschild. “This is the time I get nervous, but I have every expectation we’ll be fine. We can’t wait.”

About 1,000 of the 2,500 tickets have been sold so far, Kent said, but based on past experience, she knows most tickets will be sold next week.

A relative newcomer to the lunch is the rabbi himself. Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, who experienced his first Deli Day last year, admires the tradition that pre-dates his tenure by more than 31 years. (Organizers aren’t sure of the exact start date.)

“Deli Day is a wonderful tradition at Temple Israel,” Salkin said. “It generates an enviable amount of enthusiasm and participation. The congregation eagerly looks forward to hosting our many friends and neighbors in the Columbus community.”

Organizers are usually lucky with the weather. It’s typically sunny and warm, so people can take long lunches and children can play in the grass.

“It takes the congregation and the community to make Deli Day what it is,” chairwoman Gloria Cohen said. “There is no other activity in the Temple where women, men and children participate at the same time.”

One of the local charities to benefit from Deli Day is Wynnton Neighborhood Network, a consortium of congregations in midtown that assists people with emergency food aand utility assistance. Housed at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a neighbor to the Temple, WNN helps about 3,000 families annually. The event also benefits the Columbus Alliance For Battered Women.

In addition, various national Jewish groups receive financial assistance from this event, Babette Rothschild said.

Right after this Deli Day concludes, a meeting will be held to assess things done well, and things that need improvement.

“By January, everything is ordered,” Cohen said. “Every year I say I can’t do it again, but I really enjoy working with the people.”

Allison Kennedy, 706-576-6237